Acclaimed journalist Robin Washington, who lives in Duluth, Minnesota, started in April as editor-at-large of The Forward. This flagship position, aimed at elevating and expanding diverse voices, is well-suited for Washington, a Jew of color raised in Chicago during the height of the Civil Rights Movement.
Born to parents who were active in racial justice, Washington’s own activism and advocacy for Jews of color went national in 1995 as the co-founder of the Alliance of Black Jews. In his position at the Forward, he will help recruit diverse contributors and sources, mentor interns and staff, and consult across the organization’s leadership to address systemic racism.
He says the position is important because “without diverse voices, or giving power to ethnically diverse Jews, you don’t get a complete picture of Judaism.” He references a recent Pew study, which puts BIPOC Jews (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) at approximately 8 percent of the U.S. Jewish population.
For The Forward, Washington recently wrote about a national Shabbaton for Jews of Color that took place in early May and about the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides. He also wrote several pieces related to George Floyd, including a call for everyone to observe George Floyd’s Yahrzeit. “Say his name.”
Washington, who is the former editor-in-chief of the Duluth News Tribune, says that being based in Minnesota allows him to “give a broader picture” to the Forward’s worldwide Jewish audience about race-related issues. He has traveled to the Twin Cities, the current epicenter, to cover several aspects related to Derek Chauvin’s trial for the murder of George Floyd.
When he is in the Twin Cities, it’s mainly for business. And when COVID-19 restrictions further lift, his trips may be more frequent. Earlier this year, he was appointed to the board of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. He authored a study last year about the need for Jewish organizations to improve the representation of Jews of color on their boards, as Black, Asian, Latino and other nonwhite Jews are “grossly underrepresented,” he said, citing numbers that show that African American Jews are about two percent of the Jewish population.
“If you want to see change in these organizations, you have to do it with the board,” he added.
See the video below for more of Washington’s conversation with Jewfolk board member, Sheree Curry, who is also an acclaimed journalist, active advocate for Jews of color and an early member of the Alliance of Black Jews.